Bonnie Saran’s “Little” Restaurants Have Generated a Big Brand in Mount Kisco
Born in India and raised in an Army household, Saran channels her travel experiences, family ties and culinary talents into a trio of highly successful, authentic restaurants.
Bonnie Saran is often at work until around midnight at Little Kebab Station, Little Crêpe Street, or Little Spice Bazaar, her three popular Mount Kisco businesses.
photo by John Rizzo
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The moment you walk in the door of Little Kabab Station in Mount Kisco, the warm and rustic atmosphere and tantalizing mixture of spices take you on a journey 7,400 miles or so away to India, where owner and creator Bonnie Saran was born and raised.
Saran’s mom, Ritu, greets you (if you have the pleasure of meeting her during her yearly visits) as you cross the threshold into this little world and beams with pride for all of her daughter’s many accomplishments—especially since, she says, “Bonnie was a very mischievous and naughty child. I seriously worried what she would do with her life.”
Ritu no longer has any need to fear. Saran, who lives in Bedford Hills, has created a “Little” empire with her three successful businesses: In addition to her flagships, Little Kabab Station and Little Spice Bazaar, her newest creation, Little Crêpe Street, opened in December. And the road to success has been quite a journey for her.
Saran was born in 1975 in the town of Devlali in India, but her family never stayed in one spot for long since her dad was in the Indian Army. When she was 15, her mother started a small catering business out of their home, and Bonnie (whether she wanted to or not) was enlisted to help in any way needed. At that time, going into the restaurant business was the furthest thing from her mind.
Instead, she went to school in India to get her Masters in Finance and Marketing. One day in the early 1990s, she was waiting at a traffic light when she saw an advertisement from a company in the United States looking to promote and manage a multi-city tour for the UK pop group Whigfield
“Being from an army background, I always was a part of a lot of events being planned, so this opportunity sounded very interesting to me,” says Saran, 37. Stopping at a local Internet café, she quickly drew up a proposal. She ended up getting the job, and it became a springboard for a marketing career.
“Coca-Cola was one of the major sponsors in India at the time,” Saran explains, “and they were one of the main sponsors for the Whigfield show.
The head of marketing for Coca-Cola saw me handling all aspects of the show and said to me, ‘After the show finishes, why don’t you come and handle promotions for us?’” Saran was then hired to do multi-city promotions and product launches for the beverage company, followed by work for such high-profile companies as General Motors and PepsiCo. In fact, in 2000, she became one of the first people in India to open an event-management company, which she named 4 City Events.
Everything, she says, was going along smoothly at the time—her business was very successful and her social life was booming. Then suddenly, her world turned upside down with the sudden death of her father, whom she describes as her “hero,” from a heart attack.
“I remember sitting in my office just before he died,” Saran says. “He called me and told me to come to the airport to pick him up. But when I called my grandparents’ house a few hours before I was set to pick him up, no one was home. One of the helpers in the house gave me the news and said, ‘Your father is no more.’ I just could not believe it. I mean, I had just spoken to him.” Saran says she and her father always joked around with each other, yet, during their last conversation, her father “was very emotional” and told her, “You know you are a very good child.”
At the time of her father’s death, she had been living with her parents, despite the success of her business. “I never really worried about paying any bills,” she says. “Everything was taken care of.” Suddenly, though, “the whole responsibility of the family came down on me and forced me to grow up literally overnight.”
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